The car came to a stop after driving on the slush-infested road for quite some time.
“Shall we go?”
Yurim felt like instructor Miso’s secretary right now, she got on the elevator of the hospital with a grin. In a flash, they arrived at Maru’s room.
“What about you, instructor?”
“I need to think about something really quick.”
Well, that’s a bit odd. Yurim stepped inside, for now, on the bed was Maru with a book in hand. It felt uncomfortable to be around him, to be honest. Oh well. She opened her mouth to try to say hi.
“Let me ask you just one thing,” Maru cut in.
The boy was staring at her kind of scarily, their eyes met.
“Did you start the fire?”
The question came out of nowhere, punching Yurim’s throat completely shut. Why was he asking that? He looked like he knew something. Wait, did he know?
The boy shut the book with a loud clap. Maru’s cold, calm expression grew icier by the second. He kicked away the blanket on him before standing up on one foot. Something was weird, Maru was approaching her. She couldn’t breathe. Maru leaned over to look over her, she stepped back with a gasp.
“So it’s you.”
“W-what are you talking about?! You were the one who started the fire!”
“Why do you think that?”
She didn’t know what to say. She knew Maru wasn’t the perpetrator, so she was speechless. She desperately tried to continue her words.
“Did you see me start the fire?” Maru asked.
“No. But there wasn’t a fire when I came out. So it has to be you. It has to be!”
“I really started the fire?”
“Don’t you even know? You started the fire with a tube of glue. The instructor already said you’re suspicious. Be honest. It’s you!”
“I started the fire with glue?”
“Yes. You started the fire and then called everyone else here!”
She shouted before looking at Maru. How dare he get suspicious of her! He didn’t even have proof!
Maru loosened his expression before stepping back.
“I was just really mad. I didn’t mean to shift blame.”
Maru looked down apologetically. Yurim thought for a second, so Maru really didn’t know anything.
“But it’s not me either, please believe me.”
Maru went back to his spot with a sigh, he looked tired for some reason.
“I was just feeling chaotic because I was hurt. Sorry. I got too agitated.”
He looked like an apologetic sinner, Yurim relaxed a little bit.
“Well, fine. I’ll take it. But you really didn’t start a fire?”
“Yes. Please believe me.”
“But instructor Miso’s suspicious of you. I don’t think so either, but the fire did start after you went up.”
“That’s true. But if I started the fire, do you think I would’ve tried to save the stage despite risking injuries? It’s really not me. Believe me.”
Maru balled up his fists, his emotions must be a mess right now. He was getting blamed for something he didn’t even do, after all. That would explain his previous actions as well.
‘Good. He doesn’t know anything.’
What should she do? Should she push him a bit further? No. She decided to just watch him, it kind of felt good watching the boy struggle with his thoughts. That’s right, you shouldn’t even have thought about jumping into the fire!
“I heard from instructor Miso that we wouldn’t take this to the police. The school only thinks of this as a mistake as well.”
Yurim’s complexion improved in a flash. She’s been worried all night about what she could do if teachers or the police get involved, she didn’t want to get arrested. That would put her in a fate worse than death. But if the world saw this as a simple mistake? Nothing would happen.
It was like the nervousness and regret that’s been stabbing away at her heart suddenly disappeared, it felt good to breathe again. Her vision cleared up and she began to notice things, like the little mountain of fruits next to Maru. Color was starting to come back into her world. Ah, she’s just noticed how pretty the snow is outside. Yurim smiled lightly.
“I don’t think it’s you either. There’s no one here that’d do something like that.”
Maru sighed in relief, she felt a little less hateful of Maru now that she’s relaxed quite a bit. It’d be nice if the incident just gets forgotten like this… She took a sip of the plum juice Maru gave her and sat down, only then did she notice Maru’s hurt leg.
“Were you hurting a lot?”
“I’m fine now. The fracture doesn’t seem like anything bad.”
“That’s good. I was worried.”
Their conversation smoothed out. The plum juice was sweet. She felt like she could fly. Finally, she’d be able to sleep well for the first time in a very long time. Instructor Miso entered through the door. She didn’t feel guilty anymore when she looked at the instructor.
“Yurim, can you step out for a bit?”
She stepped outside. Once they were out of Maru’s view, instructor Miso started asking her questions.
“How was he?”
“He seemed suspicious, but I don’t think it’s him. He looked really guilty, so I felt sorry for him.”
Right then, instructor Miso took out her phone. She must’ve gotten a message, she checked her phone after telling Yurim to wait for a second. She put the phone in her pockets after reading it.
“Hah, so no one in the club, I guess?”
Yurim nodded for now. She needed to snuff out any further reason for instructor Miso to investigate further.
“Alright. You’re all good kids, so I believe it. I’ll just think of it as unlucky.”
“Yes, I think it’d be for the best. It feels bad to be suspicious of my friends.”
“You’re a good kid.”
Miso patted her shoulders. Yurim felt freed from all of her shackles, she actually had to suppress a grin from coming up on her mouth.
“Yurim, I hate to say it, but can you go back by yourself? I want to talk with Maru.”
“Yes, that’s fine.”
“Here’s your money for the taxi. Good work. I’ll see you in two days.”
What a good day. Yurim dropped all of her worries and stepped outside.
* * *
Maru stretched; his hips hurt from sitting for too long, he twisted his hips to loosen them up a bit.
Miso entered the room. Maru handed her a plum drink to her as well.
“Here, it’s good.”
“Your words make you sound like a liar.”
And he was. It was honestly a bit too sweet for his tastes, so he’s offered it to anyone who comes to visit him. Even with that, he had eight bottles left. When would he be able to get rid of them? Just as he opened a bottle of orange juice for himself, Miso snatched the drink out of his hands and switched it out for the plum drink.
“Plums are good for your health.”
“Don’t sigh, you’re still young.”
Miso gulped down the drink in one shot. She must feel pretty stuffy inside. After all, a criminal emerged from the club, when she was so sure that they wouldn’t be in there. Miso frowned in annoyance.
“Alright, so. How’s Yurim the perpetrator? And why did you just send her back?”
Miso spoke as she took out her phone with Maru’s text opened.
[I think Yurim did it. Send her back with thanks for now.]
Maru took out a voice recorder from his pant pocket.
He wordlessly played the recording. The conversation he had with Yurim played out.
Miso’s frown deepened.
“You didn’t tell the club about the glue, did you?”
“Of course not. I didn’t want to talk about it.”
Miso played the recording multiple times, Maru smiled bitterly looking at her. The woman was a fan of humans, so an incident like this must’ve been quite a shock to her. To think her student would try to trick her and pin the blame on Maru...
Maru realized that Yurim was the one who did it as soon as she stepped into the room. A giant word bubble popped up over her as soon as their eyes met. The word bubble was shaky and spiky, reflecting her current mental state. Moreover, it had the words ‘did he find any evidence?’ written on it. But of course, that wasn’t good enough as evidence. So he brought his recorder.
“I wonder why she did it,” Miso sighed.
“Yurim’s probably the only person who knows.”
“Hah, I should ask her.”
Miso’s eyes narrowed like a hawk’s. Maru grabbed her wrist with a shake of his head.
“Leave her be.”
“What? Leave her be?”
Miso shook off Maru’s hand with a confused expression.
* * *
“I understand that you care for her. But we can’t just let this go. She started a fire. Someone got hurt. You can’t just forgive...”
Miso couldn’t even finish her words properly. The quietest girl in the club started a fire. Maru was telling her to just let it go though, that wasn’t right.
“Who said I was going to forgive her?”
Maru looked as calm as ever. Emotionless, really.
“If you commit a crime, punishment awaits. That’s why laws and society exist.”
“Why did you tell me to let her go, then?”
Maru pushed his book over to one side.
“As you know, I need to show Mr. Junmin some results. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get into the nationals because of this injury. But if we win even without me, at least I can put my name under the team.”
He was speaking slowly. Emotionlessly. As if this and the fire were two completely different matters.
“Nothing good will come out of trying to damage Yurim right now. She’d either ask for forgiveness or play innocent till the end. Either way, it’s not helpful for the play. That’s bad. Yurim needs to act until the end at her best condition.”
Maru cracked his neck sideways. He smiled a little in satisfaction.
“I like and respect people who are close to me, but I’m not a philanthropist by any means. I’m quite greedy, as a matter of fact. I try to get as much as I can from what benefits me, and I throw out what doesn’t help me. In that sense, Yurim still has some value. So, unfortunately, I’m going to have to ask you to play coy until the nationals finish, instructor.”
Maru’s eyes were cold. They were a bit alien, but she did think that this might be what the boy was actually like. This boy was extremely lenient when he was getting harmed by his own volition. He didn’t think much about making sacrifices, but he didn’t have any mercy when he had to take losses from other people’s actions.
Miso was reminded of what Taesik said a while ago, back when the school was getting rowdy with talks about school violence. Taesik described the boy back then as the ‘Hammurabi code of laws’ back then, she sort of understood what he meant by that now.
“Let’s smile until the end of the finals. So that Yurim doesn’t get too shaken up.”
This was for the best, everyone would benefit from this for sure. But how did Maru personally feel about this?
“Aren’t you mad? Can you take it?”
He got hurt by the fire, he could’ve gotten seriously injured. He missed his spot in the nationals as well, a spot that could’ve possibly earned him a lot of interest from industry workers. He lost a great chance just because of Yurim’s foolishness.
“Of course I’m mad, but I have much to gain from being patient for a moment. Profits come first and foremost, emotions can come later.”
What a smart boy. He looked like the type of person who’d survived for years in society. Just where did someone like him come from?
“You should just start a company instead of acting. No, just start up a cult. You’ll succeed for sure.”
“I did think about that, but I don’t really look that kind or gentle.”
Maru smiled brightly, softening the mood of the room immediately. What a strange kid.
“Alright. I’ll go with it for now. What will you do after the nationals though?”
“I’ll ask why she did it. We can think about what to do after my curiosity is satisfied. I want to know what made her do this.”
Miso nodded as she stood up. She needed to take care of the club, now that it’s come to this. For now, she’d tell the club that it was all just a misunderstanding. They’d hate her for some time, but whatever. She was an adult.
“Ah, what if she did it for a legitimate reason?”
She asked before she stepped out. Of course, the girl probably didn’t have a good reason to start a fire of all things, but she was curious about what Maru would say.
“A legitimate reason. It’s unfortunate, but that doesn’t change anything. Reasons aren’t indulgences. One needs to be ready for the consequences of their actions.”
His last words sent a slight chill down Miso’s back. She nodded before closing the door behind her.Previous Chapter Next Chapter